I had heard a lot about Twitter.com and had even signed up for a few different accounts, but really hadn’t done anything at all with it until last week. Over the last three days, I have immersed myself in all things Twitter and this is my report on how to get started and how to get followers. I will cover everything from the very basics to how I got over 1,000 followers in 2 days. I’m writing down what I wish I could have read last week!
Just in case you have been hiding out somewhere, Twitter is a social website where people post very short (140 characters maximum) posts typically about what they are doing at the moment. Posts are also referred to as “updates” or “tweets”. You can “follow” people and then their updates show up in your stream. They can follow you back if they want and then they will see your updates in their stream. I’m LoPaul on Twitter and you can follow me on Twitter here. You can post updates from the Twitter website, from your cell phone or your iPhone, and also from several different Twitter tools – both standalone applications and web applications. Twitter was originally designed with cell phone texting in mind and this is where the short limit comes from. You can add your mobile phone to your Twitter account so you can text in your updates and have other people’s updates texted to your phone. Make sure you have an unlimited texting package if you choose to do this!
You have 2 numbers – your “following” and your “followers”. This is the number of people you are following and the number who are following you, respectively. As a general rule, you want them to be about equal without one hugely bigger than the other. Unless you are a celebrity like Ashton Kutcher (142 Following and 1,574,304 Followers at the time of this writing) you need to follow other people in order to get them to “follow you back”. Also, Twitter places limits (I’ve heard it is about 2,000) on how many people you can follow who don’t follow you back, so if your following is greater than your followers by over 2,000 then you won’t be able to follow anyone else.
The Follow Rules
These are rules to follow if you are trying to increase your followers count.
- Always follow back to anyone who starts following you. This builds goodwill and people will spread the word that you will follow back and recommend others to follow you as well.
- Don’t let your following get much above your followers count. Having wildly different numbers will turn people off and prevent them from following you. Periodically go through your following list and purge people who haven’t followed you back.
One important thing to know is you can reference someone in a post by adding @name in your post (change “name” to the person you want to reference). Anything with an “@” in front gets turned into a link to that person’s profile and also they can easily see any responses that mention them. When you are logged in, there is a “replies” tab (labeled @LoPaul or whatever your name is) which shows any posts with your @name in them. Even if you don’t follow someone and they use your @name, you will still see it in your replies list. This is the most common way to direct a message to a person.
Keep in mind that your @name post is directed at a specific person, but it is not private to them! It appears in your timeline and in the timeline of everyone else who follows you. You can also include as many @name’s as you want in a message.
Unlike using @name, a Direct Message (or DM) is a private message only seen by the recipient. This is sort of like a Twitter inbox. DMs are still held to the 140 character limit. Many people have abused DMs for spam, so DMs typically aren’t used by the community. You can pretty safely ignore DMs completely. In your account settings you can disable DM so people can’t even send you DMs.
Putting a # (hashtag) in front of any word marks it as a keyword. For example #Austin would mean your post was relative to Austin or #cooking would mean it was relevant to cooking. Warning: Use hashtags correctly and sparingly. They are socially understood to be informative on the topic. Hashtags will often come from an authority on the hashtag topic. For instance, you shouldn’t use hashtags when just posting about your daily activities unless it is something informative to the topic.
Putting a RT in your message indicates a “ReTweet”. If you see a great tweet, you can re-broadcast it to everyone that follows you using this method. The RT is usually at the beginning of the message, but can be anywhere in the message. It should include the @name of the original person posting it as well. This is a decent way to build good will by retweeting other people’s posts, but make sure not to overdo it.
This is a good common tradition to know about. Hopefully obviously, people post “Follow Friday” posts on Fridays. This is a post with #FollowFriday (or #FF) and a list of @name people that you recommend for others to follow. It is a way to give back to people you have been corresponding with and recommend them to your followers as someone that they should follow as well. This is typically done in the hopes that other people will reciprocate and include you in a #FF post.
The basics turned out to be more lengthy than I thought. Next time I’ll cover the common Twitter tools, how to simplify tasks, and how to increase your follower count.
For now, get Twittering and make sure to follow me on Twitter!
Proceed to Part II